Many people are aware that weed contains cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. Yet even seasoned cannabis consumers often don’t know that the human body produces its own cannabinoids, too. This intriguing fact was discovered quite recently. One of these endocannabinoids is anandamide, a substance also known as the ‘bliss’ molecule due to its positive mood effects. Just like CBD and THC in cannabis, anandamide can bind to cell receptors. Structurally speaking, it is in fact quite similar to THC. But what can this molecule do for cannabis enthusiasts? Can you use marijuana to make you happy?
The Properties Of Anandamide
Cannabis is back in the spotlights: recently, scientists have been busy mapping the plethora of compounds weed contains, with a heavy focus on their medicinal properties. Nonetheless, it is amazing to realize that plant-based cannabinoids like THC and CBD were discovered in 1964 and 1942, respectively; long before we came across the endocannabinoids that we produces ourselves. It was not until the start of the nineties before scientists found that weed phytocannabinoids can bind to human receptors.
The first endocannabinoid was discovered as recently as 1992, and this was coined anandamide. This body-made cannabinoid is generated in the cellular membranes and tissues of the brain. Normally speaking, natural anandamide levels are low. The compound does not remain stable for long inside the body, where it is quickly broken down into arachidonic acid and ethanol amine by the enzyme FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase).
This makes anandamide a fragile endocannabinoid, and in a poetical sense, that seems quite fitting. Anandamide is the Sanskrit word for joy and happiness, which is why it is known as the ‘bliss molecule’. Anandamide produces a blissful, satisfied state of mind. It is also involved in learning, motivation, memory, appetite, and happiness.
Low Anandamide Levels
Somehow, one would hope that the body produces copious amounts of this precious compound. Sadly, however, this is not the case. Perhaps that would simply be too good to be true. After all, bliss and happiness are equally transient in everyday life. Nonetheless, scientists are deeply fascinated by the substance, with a particular focus on the link between this neurotransmitter and FAAH.
As stated above, FAAH breaks down anandamide. Theoretically, then, inhibiting the activity of FAAH should raise natural body anandamide levels. That could have important therapeutic implications. However, other factors also influence anandamide’s effects: it can also affect the phytocannabinoids found in weed. To find out how this works, we need to explore the functioning of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Anandamide, Cannabis, And Your Body
The human body is host to a bewildering diversity of processes, including the cardiovascular, digestive and immune system. In a way, the body is much like a complex factory in which all processes must run in mutual harmony to function. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is like a supervisory overseer that ensures everything remains balanced. To this end, the ECS uses two types of cell receptors, known as CB1 and CB2. Our own body’s cannabinoids, including anandamide, can bind to these receptors to convey messages to the cells.
However, phytocannabinoids found in marijuana, including THC and CBD, are also capable of conneting to these receptors. This allows them to affect your mood, appetite, memory, and more. So what are the effects of CBD and THC on anandamide? Can you use weed to find bliss and feel happy?
THC And Anandamide
Both THC and anandamide are able to connect with CB1 receptors, partly due to their chemical similarity. THC turns out to make stronger connections with CB1 receptors than anandamide, though. If someone uses cannabis, THC will have a strong influence on that person’s body and mind through specific chemical changes. This causes the famous high or stoned effects people experience while consuming cannabis. This implies that in a very real sense, anandamide is outclassed by THC, losing its ability to affect CB1 receptors as a result.
The effect of THC is noticeable in the way the brain works. THC affects memory, but it also promotes production of dopamine, another important neurotransmitter. This raises dopamine levels in the body beyond the usual thresholds. Similarly to anandamide, dopamine also causes feelings of pleasure; it is also involved in appetite and our sense of reward.
Anandamide And CBD In Cannabis
The effect of CBD on anandamide is much more direct. This is due to CBD’s inhibitory effect on FAAH’s capacity to break down anandamide. That allows anandamide to remain present in the brain for longer durations, which in turn extends our opportunities to benefit from the bliss molecule’s effects. Research has demonstrated that people with high anandamide levels stand to benefit from this effect. They experience improved mood, decreased anxiety, and greater pain relief.
Happier Because Of Weed?
Of course, it is impossible at this point to conclude that weed makes people happy, period. The phenomenon of happiness is governed by so many factors that we are unlikely to pinpoint any single factor responsible for our sense of bliss. In addition, we need more research to further clarify the relationship between anandamide and the effects of cannabis. Still, consumption of marijuana could potentially contribute to general improvement of mood. Part of the explanation could be that THC increases dopamine production; CBD’s inhibition of anandamide breakdown could be another aspect. Research appears to point in similar directions: cannabis consumption in a male penitentiary facility turned out to reduce levels of violence and improve inmate’s social cohesion.
The best cannabis strains to use for improving people’s positive moods would appear to be strains with relatively low THC levels (below 20%) and relatively high CBD content. That would maximise the benefits either cannabinoid contributes in this regard.
There are other ways to naturally increase your anandamide levels, though. Regular exercise is known to help, and both dark chocolate and truffles are natural anandamide sources, too! Moreover, happiness amounts to more than a mere matter of anandamide, or of cannabis for that matter, and that is probably for the best. Reading a good book can make people happy, as can a lovely stroll in the countryside, or the smiling face of someone we love. Fortunately, we all have myriad personal ways to boost our happiness and wellbeing. The trick is finding out what works for you, and what doesn’t.
Anandamide, Cannabis, And A Personal Path To Bliss
No matter how we look at it, the pursuit of happiness appears more complicated than the chemistry of a single cannabinoid like anandamide. Bliss turns out to be every bit as ephemeral and transient as the presence of these molecules in anyone’s bloodstream. Perhaps this is for the better: it would probably feel like cheating if ordering cannabis seeds or simply rolling up brought instant bliss for anyone.
Nonetheless, our Amsterdam Genetics community proves that growing marijuana and enjoying its results makes people happy every day. So regardless of your anandamide levels, perhaps now is a good time to see whether the cannabis grower’s hobby is a step on the way to finding your personal sense of bliss!